Frequently Asked Questions About INNCO

What is INNCO?

Founded in 2016, the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO) is a global member association that advocates for tobacco harm reduction and access to, and proportionate regulation of, low-risk alternative nicotine products. INNCO’s role is to enable coordination and cooperation across its organizational network around the world, as well as engage in targeted national- and regional-level projects to help significantly reduce the number of people who die from smoking-related illnesses each year.

What is INNCO’s mission?

INNCO is focused on empowering consumers of low-risk alternative nicotine products through its member organisations, utilizing research, education and advocacy, so they can be actively engaged in the pursuit of tobacco harm reduction worldwide.

What is tobacco harm reduction?

Tobacco harm reduction (THR) is a public health policy that respects individual autonomy, empowers consumers to make safer choices, and offers pragmatic solutions to combating the use of high-risk forms of tobacco. It is an alternative to the “quit or die” mindset prevalent among WHO FCTC and its member governments that impose restrictive regulations and bans on risk-reduced nicotine products in pursuit of unrealistic tobacco elimination goals.

Can anyone join INNCO?

Entities and legal bodies may apply to become members if they are non-profit consumer-controlled organisations focused on tobacco harm reduction. Details on membership requirements can be found on INNCO’s website in Articles 8-12 of Statutes of the Association.

Are there fees for members?

INNCO charges no membership fees or dues and works closely with organisations that align with its mission, aims and values. Member organisations operate independently in their respective countries and work cooperatively with other members, regionally and internationally.

How many members does INNCO have?

Currently, the Association’s membership comprises 35 member organisations in 33 countries.

What are the benefits of membership?

Member organisations have joined together under the INNCO umbrella to amplify their collective voices to achieve risk-relative regulations and access to safer THR products across the world. INNCO facilitates cross-pollination of advocacy ideas and provides expertise and support in helping organisations develop their own agenda and capabilities suited to the country. By connecting to a worldwide network, member organisations can develop both a global outlook and strengthen their local efforts.    

What is the financial relationship between INNCO and its member organizations?

While INNCO funds and engages in specific projects at the national/regional level, we do not provide operational or sustenance funding to our member organizations, all of which are distinct, independent, and autonomous bodies. INNCO’s role is to enable coordination and cooperation across the family of similar organizations around the world, as well as engaging in targeted national- and regional-level projects. INNCO is the collective voice of the most important stakeholders in the tobacco control debate — the consumers. 

Our THR focus is one of the reasons we have struggled to find a source for funding. INNCO does not accept funds from the tobacco or vapor industry, and most private funders in the tobacco control space are hostile towards the concept of tobacco harm reduction. While we could accept funding from consumers, that would put us in direct competition with our member organisations.

What is INNCO’s organisational structure?

INNCO is structured as an international nonprofit, registered in Geneva. The Governing Board oversees INNCO’s affairs and appoints the Secretariat comprising professionals. Major decisions are put to vote in the General Assembly held in June every year. More details can be found in our statues.

How are Governing Board members selected?

Member input is valued, and INNCO’s annual General Assembly provides a platform for members to raise ideas and concerns on the governance and direction of the Association, as well as oversee, nominate, and vote on representatives on its Governing Board. Members also are encouraged to serve on committees and working groups which offer significant input on INNCO’s policies and activities.

Do Governing Board members receive a salary?

No. All board positions are strictly volunteer positions.

Is INNCO linked with the vapour industry?

INNCO represents the consumer voice at the international level, separate and distinct from that of industry. The Association’s goal is to empower consumers to make positive decisions about their own health and protect consumer access to safer alternatives than dangerous forms of tobacco. INNCO receives no funding from the vapour or tobacco industry.

How is INNCO funded?

INNCO was established in 2016, well before seeking funding from our current funder, the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (the Foundation). The Foundation is at present funded with a 12-year-no-strings-attached grant from Philip Morris International (PMI). Our grant from the Foundation is equally arms-length, to be used to fund work decided by our own independent Governing Board and General Assembly of full members, while overseen by its auditors and other internal working groups.

Isn’t taking a grant from the Foundation the same as being funded by a tobacco company?

No. Under its Bylaws and Pledge Agreement with PMI, the Foundation operates independently from PMI and the tobacco industry. The Foundation’s Bylaws also contain a robust conflict of interest policy. Derek Yach, the President of the Foundation, was a cabinet director and executive director for non-communicable diseases and mental health at the WHO, during which time he was closely involved with the creation of the FCTC.

INNCO requested a grant from the Foundation to strengthen and build capacity, which was approved by the Foundation’s Board. Accountability in any type of grant relationship is critical, and we report to the Foundation during the course of the grant to confirm that funds are being spent in accordance with the plan and budget that was approved.. 

We understand why people may be initially sceptical, but the fact is that INNCO has nothing to do with PMI, and PMI has absolutely no control over INNCO and absolutely no input over INNCO’s projects and activities. INNCO represents the consumer voice at the international level, and our voice is separate and distinct from that of industry. Our ultimate goal is to empower consumers to make positive decisions about their own health and protect consumer access to safer alternatives to dangerous forms of tobacco.

Unfortunately, it is common in the THR and anti-smoking space for people to be accused of working with tobacco companies or to be presented as somehow “tainted”. This is a strategy intended to shut down discussion, nothing more. We appreciate the Foundation’s support. We share many of the same goals, and our visions for the future of nicotine consumption strongly overlap. 

Does INNCO provide grants to other organizations?

INNCO funds and engages in specific projects that align with its mission of promoting tobacco harm reduction.

Does INNCO make submissions to governments?

Yes. INNCO’s support and structure provides a powerful voice for consumers on THR issues. INNCO regularly submits responses to national governments on legislative and regulatory efforts impacting access to low-risk nicotine products. 

What is INNCO’s relationship with WHO and the FCTC?

The voices of 1.3 billion people around the world are being ignored, although it is their lives and futures under discussion. Consumers are entitled to a seat at the table and must have a say in discussions directly involving and impacting them. INNCO’s application for observer status to the FCTC COP8 in Geneva was denied, though no specific reason was provided. INNCO was accorded observer status for the UN NCD conference the same year. INNCO continues its work in the field of THR consumer advocacy, engaging as an independent entity with various stakeholders, including UN bodies, governments and state departments, nonprofits as well as the private sector.